By Nathan Layne
(Reuters) – The mayor of Lancaster, Pennsylvania on Monday called for an overhaul of how the city responds to mental health situations after a police officer shot and killed a 27-year-old man who ran at him, allegedly threatening him with a knife.
The shooting on Sunday sparked sometimes-violent protests overnight, turning the city of about 60,000 people into the latest flashpoint in a summer of civil unrest across the United States over racism and use of force by the police.
The Lancaster City Bureau of Police released body camera footage which appeared to show Ricardo Munoz cursing, and running at the officer with a knife in his right hand. The officer shot and killed Munoz, who died at the scene.
Munoz was out on $1 million bail after being charged with aggravated assault last year, court records showed.
At a press conference on Monday, Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace called on the governor and state legislators to work together to come up with better protocols for responding to 911 calls involving people who may have mental health issues.
She said the shooting highlighted a broader problem of poverty impacting as many as half of the city’s residents — a predicament exacerbated by budget cuts and the coronavirus pandemic and disproportionately impacting minority communities.
“We must fund housing, social services, and education equitably and adequately in this city,” she said. “Lancaster, if we care so deeply about loving our neighbor then let’s do it.”
The Lancaster police department said it had arrested 8 people early on Monday for arson and other crimes, with four of those detained from outside the county. Some protesters threw bricks at the police station and post office, the police said.
Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams said in a statement her office was investigating the shooting to determine whether there was a justified use of force.
She said a preliminary review showed “that the officer fired as a man, clearly armed with a knife, ran toward the officer in a threatening manner.”
(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Bernadette Baum)